Libertarians are committed to the principle that every individual has the right to live his life as he pleases, as long as he does no harm to others. But the meaning of "harm" isn't always as identifiable as a physical assault or "fire" shouted in a crowded theatre. Nor is the phrase "to others." Add up enough "others" and you have a community; add more, a culture.
The National Post editorial board takes a libertarian line on the niqab ('The niqab? Really?' Sept. 26). Saturday's editorial expresses astonishment that the niqab has morphed from "an otherwise straightforward issue of religious accommodation" into "moral panic." The editorial concludes that the niqab is not doing "actual harm to anyone" and that the leaders should all feel ashamed for exploiting it politically.
Yet there is nothing "straightforward" about face covering in a supposedly open society. It is corrosive to the social reciprocity on which neighbourhoods depend for spontaneous camaraderie. And culturally speaking, Canadians' opposition to the niqab is commendable, since it means most of us feel we still have an actual culture to be harmed, which is no small triumph in an era dominated by the pernicious laissez-faireism of cultural relativism.